Category: Data

Open reel instrumentation and data logging tape (1949 – 2000s)

Magnetic tape was first used for data logging and instrumentation recording in 1949, when Jack Mullins installed modified Ampex Model 300s at Point Mugu Naval Air Station and at Edwards Air Force Base, both in southern California.

Tape has been heavily used since then for military, industrial, government and research applications. The Inter-Range Instrumentation Group (IRIG) set the standards for instrumentation tape recorders.

Instrumentation recorders were built to much more stringent standards than other tape recorders, and recorders that used direct, FM and PCM recording have been available.

On ¼-inch wide tape, there are typically 4 tracks, whereas on ½-inch tape there were 7, or sometimes even 14, tracks. On 1-inch tape, there were 14 or 28 tracks. Tape is usually wound on the reel with the recording surface facing towards the hub (the opposite of audio tape). Metal NAB reels were often used, for reels between 10.5 and 16-inches, but 7-inch plastic reels with cine spindle hubs have also been used.

Instrumentation recorders also used tape in cassette form, including systems that recorded onto S-VHS tape, and the Digital Instrumentation Recorder from Sony that used the SD1 cassette.

Instrumentation and data logging systems now use hard disks or flash memory for storage.

Sources / Resources

Digital Data Storage (DDS) (1989 – 2007)

Digital Data Storage (DDS) was introduced in 1989, and used a version of Digital Audio Tape (DAT) for storing data.

DDS used helical scanning on magnetic tape, and stored between 1.3 GB in the first generation (DDS-1) and 36 GB uncompressed on the fifth generation (DAT 72) launched in 2003.

During its life, DDS competed against formats such as Linear Tape-Open (LTO), Advanced Intelligent Tape (AIT), VXA, and Travan, and over 18 million DDS drives were sold.

Generally, DDS drives can read and write to media of one or perhaps two previous generations only, so DDS-4 drives cannot read or write from DDS-1 tapes. DDS drives cannot read or write to media from later generations.

Two later generations (DDS-160 and DDS-320) both use 8mm wide tape in a slightly thicker cartridge, whereas the first five generation of DDS used 3.81 mm tape (often labelled as 4mm DDS).

Sources / Resources

Preservation / Migration

media stability 3obsolescence 3Whilst DDS drives are still available secondhand, a single drive cannot read more than three generations of DDS.

The earliest tapes are now nearly 30 years old

 

Memory Stick Micro (M2) (2006 – 2009)

Memory Stick Micro (M2) was the smallest form factor of the Sony Memory Stick family. It was introduced as a joint venture with SanDisk in 2006 and is just one-quarter of the size of the Memory Stick Duo. Typical uses include PDAs and mobile phones.

Adaptors were available to allow Memory Stick Micro cards to be used in Memory Stick and Memory Stick Duo slots, and Sony produced an M2 to USB adaptor.

Cards were available from 64 MB to 16 GB capacities.

In 2009, Sony announced that Sony Ericsson phones would use microSD cards instead of Memory Stick Micro, and by 2011, the Memory Stick Micro was no longer available on the Sony UK website.

Sources / Resources

 

3.25-inch floppy disk (1983 – mid-1980s)

The 3.25-inch disk was a floppy disk introduced in 1983 for use in the Tabor TC 500 Drivette disk drive. It was a double-sided disk, with an unformatted capacity of 500 KB.

It was similar in design to the 5.25-inch minifloppy disk, and in fact the drive could replace the 5.25-inch disk drive in a PC using the same cable. In addition to the Tabor Drivette, there was a prototype 3.25-inch disk drive system for the Coleco Adam computer (that at that time was using High Speed Digital Data Pack tape drives) and a 3.25-inch drive was used in the rare Seequa Chameleon 325 computer.

Producers of the disks included Tabor, Dysan, and 3M. However, Dysan seems to have been the main producer of disks, which it labelled as the ‘Flex Diskette’, since like the 5.25-inch disk, the disk’s envelope was flexible.

The 3.25-inch disk came about at a time when there were a number of competing designs of microfloppy disk, such as the 3.5-inch microfloppy and the 3-inch Compact Floppy, and it doesn’t seem to have lasted very long in the marketplace.

Sources / Resources

Preservation / Migration

media stability 5obsolescence 5

Hewlett-Packard LaserJet Font Cartridge (1984 – 1990)

Hewlett-Packard introduced font cartridges in 1984 for its new range of LaserJet printers and the first series of font cartridges were designed for the original LaserJet, the LaserJet Plus and the LaserJet II series.

The cartridges contained a small selection of bitmapped fonts in ROM, and were numbered 92286A to 92286Z. Each cartridge was designed with a specific purpose in mind (for example, tax returns, presentations, word processing, barcodes etc.) and ranged in price from $150-$330 each. The cartridges supplemented the small range of built-in fonts and helped keep the cost of the printer down by reducing the amount of built-in memory required. Hewlett-Packard referred to the cartridges as ‘hard fonts’ as they were contained in hardware, as opposed to ‘soft’ fonts that were loaded onto the computer from floppy disk (Hewlett-Packard supplied soft fonts on a choice of 3.5-inch or 5.25-inch disk) and then downloaded to the printer’s memory as required. Early LaserJet printers could use hard or soft fonts, but at first more fonts were available on cartridges and they didn’t use the printer’s limited memory.

Although Hewlett-Packard did release some font cartridges for later LaserJet models, software fonts eventually won out as they were more flexible in their use (many fonts could be used in one document), they didn’t need to be contained in expensive cartridges, memory considerations became less important, and Microsoft began bundling fonts with the Windows operating system.

Sources / Resources

Ultra Density Optical (UDO) (2003 – )

Ultra Density Optical (UDO) is an optical disc data storage format that uses phase-change, and blue laser technology (similar to Blu-ray) to store substantial amounts of data on a disc in a cartridge very similar to the older 5.25-inch magneto-optical disc format that it was developed to replace.

UDO discs were first announced by Sony in 2000, and launched by Sony and Plasmon in 2003 with a capacity of 30 GB. UDO 2 was launched in 2007 with a capacity of 60 GB.

UDO discs are available in rewritable format, or as write once in which case the phase change method used means the data cannot altered once written (True WORM) making it very stable for long-term storage. A third format became available in 2005, Compliant WORM, that allows specific data on the disc to be destroyed while leaving other files intact.

As of 2017, UDO drives and discs are still available but since 2008 all brands of UDO disc have been manufactured by Mitsubishi in Japan.

Sources / Resources

2-inch floppy disk (LT-1) (1989 – early 1990s)

The 2-inch LT-1 disc was introduced in 1989 for use in the Zenith Minisport notebook computer, the only device that used it. Although very similar to the 2-inch Video Floppy, the two discs are not interchangeable.

The Zenith Minisport was a very lightweight laptop, with good battery life and DOS 3.3 built into ROM for fast booting. It came with 1 or 2 MB of RAM, and except for the HD version did not have a hard drive.

The LT-1 discs, which were made by Fujifilm, had a capacity of 793 KB, similar to the double-sided, double-density 3.5-inch microfloppy disk, but a lot less than the high-density 3.5-inch microfloppy disk that was becoming the industry standard. Because the LT-1 discs were only used in one model of computer, they were more expensive than other disc designs, and there was no way to read the discs on other devices.

To get around the problem of file transfer due to the unusual disc design, an external 3.5-inch microfloppy disk drive was available, and the Minisport could also transfer files via serial cable to another PC using a program called FastLynx.

The Minisport only seems to have been produced for a couple of years.

Sources  / Resources

Roland Music Style Card (1989 – 1991)

The Roland Music Style Card was a ROM card containing programmed music rhythms to extend those available in the E-series ‘intelligent synthesisers’ made by Roland.

The first of the ‘intelligent synthesisers’ was the E-20, released by Roland in 1988 as the first product of Roland’s new European arm, and was aimed at the high-end home market. A number of variations of the first-generation E-series were released, such as the cut-down E-5, and the enhanced E-30 and Pro-E (an ‘intelligent arranger’).

For the first generation of the E-series, the cards were prefixed with TN-SC1 and there were 14 Music Style Cards in the first series released between 1989 and 1991.

There was a subsequent series of Music Style Cards with a slightly different shape and prefixed TN-SC2 for later E-series synthesisers such as the E-35, E-56 and E-70.

Sources / Resources

Interactive DVD (1998 – )

Interactive DVDs (sometimes also known as DVD games, DVD Interactive or DVDi) allow the playing of games on DVD-Video players without the need for a computer or video game console, or any additional hardware (though some titles come with additional hardware such as buzzers).

The interactive DVD make use of the rudimentary interactivity features built-in to DVD-Video players that allow, for example, navigation through menus. The ability to skip to any point on the DVD instead of having to move through the video in a linear fashion as on VHS video recorders is also a major factor in making interactive DVDs practical.

The first interactive DVD game was Dragon’s Lair released in 1998, and a development of an older LaserDisc based game.

From 2001, DVD versions of board games and television quiz shows began to be released.

Sources / Resources

CD Cardz (2000 – 2009)

CD Cardz were introduced in 2000 by Serious Global Ltd of the UK, and consisted of trading card-sized CD-ROMs containing information about a character or sportsperson. They were also sold in the US by Serious USA.

CD Cardz were produced for popular shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Stargate SG-1, and films such as Final Fantasy, Lord of the Rings and Jurassic Park. The cards contained features such as screensavers, photos, trailers and biographies, and had a picture of the character printed on the disc. There were some sports-related card sets produced for EURO 2000, NBA and NFL, as well as Manchester United and Arsenal Football Clubs.

Like the similar business card CD-ROM, they did not work in slot-loading drives. CD Cardz had a capacity of 80 MB.

The CD Cardz format also appears to have been used to create interactive gift cards.

Serious appears to stopped producing CD Cardz and the later DVD Cardz in 2009 as the website ceased to exist by 2010.

Sources / Resources